The Learning Circuits Blog: Choosing Tools – Big Question for July is about authoring tools. Here’s my two cents…
Let’s say on a chart, you’ve got ease-of-use and flexibility on one axis and inflexibility and flexibility on the other. Many tools that are easy-to-use lack the level of functionality to create complex interactions while many tools that are not so easy to use provide greater functionality and flexibility in the design process. The cost of the tools often (but not always) reflect this. In my experience, tools with a great deal of functionality normally cost more or require a good deal of support.
But wait, we shouldn’t be selecting tools to design with. Shouldn’t the design process for e-learning be independent of the tool? If the best way to learn something can be accomplished using e-learning (over other methods of delivery) then the authoring tool used to create the e-learning should be the one that can provide the level of interaction needed. What do you want the learner to do? If you want them to ‘listen for this’ ‘ask for that’ with a corrective feedback loop, then you’ll need a tool that can do that. If that can be accomplished with an easy-to-use tool that you can learn to use in the appropriate time period, sweet. If you need more flexibility in the design but lack the time to learn how to use the tool, then you should probably consider hiring someone to create the e-learning you need. There’s nothing worse than knowing exactly what you want the output to look like but being stuck within the confines of a template. Similarly, it’s awful to just want a template and have to work with a complex tool. I hate to admit it but an authoring tool nearly made me cry once.
There are a lot of other questions to consider…
- Do you want to be able to reuse content?
- Do you need standards-compliant/conformant tools so you can track the e-learning through your LMS?
- What system requirements do you have?
- Do you do group development where desktop tools won’t cut it?
- Oh yeah…and how much money do you have to spend?
Two of the questions within the ‘big question’ were “what should learning professionals do to stay up-to-speed? Do they need to learn new tools constantly?”
Can an engineer draft out a design on paper on a drafting table instead of using 3D modeling software? Yes, absolutely. But is that the best way for what is being created?
Every profession has to stay up-to-speed on what’s out there in their field butÂ I don’t think it’s feasible for learning professionals to constantly use new tools. I think you’d get into a cycle where the onlyÂ person learning is you…
Brandon Hall Research does have an Authoring Tool Online KnowledgeBase your can purchase if you want an easy way to compare 100 authoring tools against your requirements. If you want to see a demo, let me know.